Mark 15

CHAPTER XV.

Jesus is brought before Pilate, examined, and accused, but

makes no answer, 1-5.

The multitude clamour for the release of Barabbas, and the

crucifixion of Christ, 6-14.

Pilate consents, and he is led away, mocked, insulted, and

nailed to the cross, 15-26.

Two thieves are crucified with him, 27, 28.

While hanging on the cross, he is mocked and insulted, 29-32.

The miraculous darkness and our Lord's death, 33-37.

The rending of the veil, and the confession of the centurion,

38, 39.

Several women attend and behold his death, 40, 41.

Joseph of Arimathea begs the body from Pilate, and buries it,

42-46.

Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joses, note the place of

his burial, 47.

NOTES ON CHAP. XV.

Verse 1. In the morning] See Mt 27:1, &c.

Verse 8. The multitude crying aloud] αναβοησας. The word

itself strongly marks the vociferations, or, to come nearer the

original word, the bellowing of the multitude. It signifies,

properly, a loud and long cry, such as Christ emitted on the

cross. See the whole history of these proceedings against our

Lord treated at large, on Matt. 27. Mt 27:1-26, &c.

Verse 17. And platted a crown of thorns] In the note on

Mt 27:29, I have ventured to express a doubt whether our Lord was

crowned with thorns, in our sense of the word; this crown being

designed as an instrument of torture. I am still of the same

opinion, having considered the subject more closely since writing

that note. As there I have referred to Bishop Pearce, a man whose

merit as a commentator is far beyond my praise, and who, it is to

be regretted, did not complete his work on the New Testament, I

think it right to insert the whole of his note here.

"The word ακανθων may as well be the plural genitive case of

the word ακανθος as of ακανθη: if of the latter, it is rightly

translated, of thorns; but the former would signify what we call

bear's-foot, and the French, branche ursine. This is not of the

thorny kind of plants, but is soft and smooth. Virgil calls it

mollis acanthus, Ecl. iii. 45, Geor. iv. 137. So does Pliny, sec.

Epist. ver. 6. And Pliny the elder, in his Nat. Hist. xxii. 22,

p. 277, edit. Hard., says that it is laevis, smooth; and that it

is one of those plants that are cultivated in gardens. I have

somewhere read, but cannot at present recollect where, that this

soft and smooth herb was very common in and about Jerusalem. I

find nothing in the New Testament said concerning this crown,

which Pilate's soldiers put on the head of Jesus, to incline one

to think that it was of thorns, and intended, as is usually

supposed, to put him to pain. The reed put into his hand, and the

scarlet robe on his back, were only meant as marks of mockery and

contempt. One may also reasonably judge, by the soldiers being

said to plat this crown, that it was not composed of such twigs

and leaves as were of a thorny nature. I do not find that it is

mentioned by any of the primitive Christian writers as an instance

of the cruelty used towards our Saviour, before he was led to his

crucifixion, till the time of Tertullian, who lived after Jesus's

death at the distance of above 160 years. He indeed seems to have

understood ακανθων in the sense of thorns, and says, De Corona

Militar. sect. xiv. edit. Pamel. Franck. 1597, Quale, oro te,

Jesus Christus sertum pro utroque sexu subiit? Ex spinis, opinor,

et tribulis. The total silence of Polycarp, Barnabas, Clem.

Romanus, and all the other Christian writers whose works are now

extant, and who wrote before Tertullian, in particular, will give

some weight to incline one to think that this crown was not

platted with thorns. But as this is a point on which we have not

sufficient evidence, I leave it almost in the same state of

uncertainty in which I found it. The reader may see a

satisfactory account of acanthus, bear's-foot, in Quincy's English

Dispensatory, part ii. sect. 3, edit. 8, 1742."

This is the whole of the learned and judicious prelate's note;

on which I have only to observed that the species of acanthus

described by Virgil and the two Plinys, as mollis and laevis,

soft and smooth, is, no doubt, the same as that formerly used in

medicine, and described by Quincy and other pharmacopaeists; but

there are other species of the same plant that are prickly, and

particularly those called the acanthus spinosus, and the

ilicifolius, the latter of which is common in both the Indies:

this has leaves something like our common holly, the jagged edges

of which are armed with prickles; but I do not conceive that this

kind was used, nor indeed any other plant of a thorny nature, as

the Roman soldiers who platted the crown could have no interest in

adding to our Lord's sufferings; though they smote him with the

rod, yet their chief object was to render him ridiculous, for

pretending, as they imagined, to regal authority. The common wild

acanthas or bear's-foot, which I have often met in the dry turf

bogs in Ireland, though it have the appearance of being prickly,

yet is not, in fact, so. Several shoots grow from one root, about

four or five inches long, and about as thick as a little finger.

A parcel of such branches, platted by their roots in a string,

night be made to look even ornamental, tied about the temples and

round the head. It would finely imitate a crown or diadem. But I

know not if this plant be a native of Judea.

Verse 21. A Cyrenian] One of Cyrene, a celebrated city in the

Pentapolis of Libya.

The father of Alexander and Rufus] It appears that these two

persons were well known among the first disciples of our Lord. It

is not unlikely that this is the same Alexander who is mentioned,

Ac 19:33,

and that the other is the Rufus spoken of by St. Paul, Ro 16:13.

Verse 25. The third hour] It has been before observed, that

the Jews divided their night into four watches, of three hours

each. They also divided the day into four general parts. The

first began at sunrise. The second three hours after. The third

at mid-day. The fourth three hours after, and continued till

sunset. Christ having been nailed to the cross a little after

mid-day, Joh 19:14-16, 17,

and having expired about three o'clock, Mr 15:33, the whole

business of the crucifixion was finished within the space of this

third division of the day, which Mark calls here the third hour.

Commentators and critics have found it very difficult to reconcile

this third hour of Mark, with the sixth hour of John, Joh 19:14.

It is supposed that the true reading, in Joh 19:14, should be

τριτη, the third, instead of εκτη the sixth; a mistake which

might have readily taken place in ancient times, when the

character γ gamma, which was put for τριτη, three, might have

been mistaken for Γρεεκ episema, or sigma tau, which signifies

six. And τριτη, the third, instead of εκτη, the sixth,

is the reading of some very eminent MSS. in the place in question,

Joh 19:14.

See Bengel, Newcome, Macknight, Lightfoot, Rosenmuller, &c., on

this perplexing point.

Verse 27. Two thieves] A copy of the Itala tells their names:

One on the right hand-named Zoathon; and one on the left

hand-named Chammatha.

Verse 28. The scripture was fulfilled] All this verse is

wanting in many MSS., some versions, and several of the fathers.

Verse 32. And believe] In him is added by DFGHPBHV, and

upwards of sixty others; as also the Armenian, Slavonic, and four

Itala.

Verse 34. My God, my God, &c.] See Clarke on Mt 27:46.

Verse 37. Gave up the ghost.] This was about three o'clock,

or what was termed by the Jews the ninth hour; about the time that

the paschal lamb was usually sacrificed. The darkness mentioned

here must have endured about two hours and a half. Concerning

this eclipse, See Clarke on Mt 27:45.

Verse 40. Joses] Some MSS. and versions read Joset, others

Joseph. See Clarke on Mt 27:56.

Verse 42. The day before the Sabbath] What we would call

Friday evening. As the law of Moses had ordered that no criminal

should continue hanging on a tree or gibbet till the setting of

the sun, Joseph, fearing that the body of our Lord might be taken

down, and thrown into the common grave with the two robbers, came

and earnestly entreated Pilate to deliver it to him, that he might

bury it in his own new tomb. See Clarke on "Mt 27:56; "Mt 27:60".

Verse 43. Went in boldly unto Pilate] He who was a coward

before now acts a more open, fearless part, than any of the

disciples of our Lord! This the Holy Spirit has thought worthy of

especial notice. It needed no small measure of courage to declare

now for Jesus, who had been a few hours ago condemned as a

blasphemer by the Jews, and as a seditious person by the Romans;

and this was the more remarkable in Joseph, because hitherto, for

fear of the Jews, he had been only a secret disciple of our Lord.

See Joh 19:38.

The apostle says, We have BOLDNESS to enter into the holiest

through his blood. Strange as it may appear, the death of Jesus

is the grand cause of confidence and courage to a believing soul.

Verse 47. Beheld where he was laid.] The courage and

affection of these holy women cannot be too much admired. The

strength of the Lord is perfected in weakness; for here a timid

man, and a few weak women, acknowledge Jesus in death, when the

strong and the mighty utterly forsook him.

HUMAN strength and human weakness are only names in religion.

The mightiest MAN, in the hour of trial, can do nothing without

the strength of God; and the weakest WOMAN can do all things, if

Christ strengthen her. These truths are sufficiently exemplified

in the case of Peter and all his brother disciples on the one

hand; and Joseph of Arimathea and the two Marys on the other.

And all this is recorded, equally to prevent both presumption and

despair. Reader, let not these examples be produced before thee

in vain.

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